Understanding misbehavior is the first step to both preventing it and dealing with it when it happens. Our modern lifestyles mean things are fast-paced and intense and we often, as parents, don’t take the time necessary to understand what is going on with our kids.
All misbehaviour is simply a result. What we need to look for is the cause. Finding this is easier than you think, if everyone makes a bit of time!
In our home we have what we call the “thinking chair”. I’m not in favour of a “naughty corner” as this gives the child the impression that they are naughty themselves; that it is them, and not their behaviour that is unacceptable. And these are the kind of messages given in childhood that end up with people sitting in my coaching chair 20 years later!
A “thinking chair” on the other hand is just a place to sit and calm down so that everyone is in a state to find out the cause of the behaviour. And please note that this thinking chair is not only for the kids – if one of us, as the parents, is having a moment or losing our tempers, we also take some time out on the thinking chair until we have calmed down enough to deal with whatever it is we weren’t handling at the time. This ensures that the kids get the message that the thinking chair is not a bad place for bad children, or that they are somehow different or less than us, but that we all have times where we feel out of control and this is normal and you are still ok as a human being; There are times when all of us need some time on our own so that our moods do not affect everyone in our environment.
What I have found with this “thinking chair” philosophy is that it only takes a few minutes for whoever is on it to calm down or cry it out, and then we sit together and discuss the REAL cause of the problem – what is going on underneath the surface that has brought you to this state? Even small children have some great insights into their own behaviour if you’ll only take the time to ask. And children, like all human beings, really appreciate being heard. We all feel loved when someone cares enough to hear what we have to say and to really listen to what is bothering us.
And once you know the cause, it is usually fairly obvious what the solution is too. Most misbehaviour in kids is a cry for help or a desperate attempt to be heard. They may have a need that is not being met, they may have had a tough day at school, they may be in pain (either emotional or physical), or they may just be tired. None of these deserves punishment, and none of these will be solved by labelling a child “naughty” – in fact, these labels are more likely to produce the kind of behaviour you’re trying to avoid!
So give your kids, and yourself, the one thing we all need for understanding and problem solving – time. Time to calm down, time to be heard, time to come up with creative solutions to everyday problems, time to feel loved.
And remember, if you do not love yourself fully you will always find it difficult to pass love on to the people in your life. If you have unresolved issues from your own childhood that have resulted in you not feeling lovable or worthy, make a plan to sort this out – clearing up your own childhood is the best way to let your kids enjoy theirs.